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Professional Primer: How to go from manager to senior manager

Written on Jul 19, 2018

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager

Not all promotions are created equal. Some hold more significance than others and are an important recognition that your company believes in your contributions and future at the firm. One example is advancing to “senior manager.”

Rampe“’Senior manager’ is an interesting position because it’s generally reserved for people who are showing good potential and interest in career development,” said Kristen Rampe, owner of Kristen Rampe Consulting. “Senior manager is the stepping stone to the next level.”

OSCPA recently led a workshop for young professionals in public accounting to sharpen their business development skills. Members told us they have an interest in taking the next step to senior manager and were looking for advice on how to get there.

To start, Rampe said, it is important to be serious and intentional about business development, team development, industry niches, client focus, pricing and billing. These are all areas you should start to understand when looking to grow into the senior manager role.

“Whether or not you fully own the decisions that are made in those areas, you need to start engaging with those parts of the business and wrapping your arms around how it all works,” she said.

Talking to leadership at your firm is also informative, Rampe said. It’s common for younger staff to feel intimidated by the partners, but if you have your eye on a senior manager role you need to start asking questions about what it means to buy in to the firm and be in an equity position. It’s also important to consider your place within the firm and how you can actively help it succeed.

“Ask about the specific skillsets the firm needs to continue to grow,” she said. “Maybe you’re one of many audit managers and they need someone to cross over with a specialty in the governmental area. Is there an opportunity there to build your own business and reputation in that niche?”

She emphasized the importance of using individual strengths and developing leadership skills. Don’t be afraid to practice different leadership styles depending on the situation to find one that feels natural to you.

“You’re already a leader, now consider what you want the team that works directly with you to be like and how you can have influence,” she said. “You might not be the partner, but you absolutely can set standards for how people work together, how they move deadlines and how they build camaraderie.”

Figure out your interests and strengths and consider how they could satisfy what the firm needs, Rampe said, and you will set yourself on the right path.

Have a professional development question you need answered? Let us know in the comments!

Kristen Rampe, CPA, is the owner of Kristen Rampe Consulting and can be reached at